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Published on March 20th, 2014

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Consumers Complain Debt Collectors Using Unfair Tactics

Consumers are being hounded for debt they do not owe by collectors, according to a new report issued Thursday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The agency, which started collecting debt collection complaints in July 2013, has received more than 30,000 from consumers. Consumers said collectors were using aggressive tactics to collect debts they didn’t owe. About 30 million consumers had on average a debt of $1,400 subject to collection in 2013 and there are 4,500 debt collection firms nationwide, according to the agency.

CFPB data found that more than one-third of the complaints were about debt collectors repeatedly trying to collect money for a debt the consumers said they did not owe, was already paid, was the result of identity theft or was discharged in bankruptcy. Also among the tops complaints were that collectors were using inappropriate tactics, such as calling repeatedly, calling consumers at their places of employment, using foul or obscene language or calling the wrong number. Consumers also said that collectors used several threats, including arresting, jailing, suing, or seizing their property if the debt wasn’t paid.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act regulates what actions debt collectors can use. CFPB is also reviewing the information it is gathering and may issue new rules.

Below is a list of the types of debt collection complaints listed in the CFPB report.

FDCPA Complaint Category

Total 2013 Complaints

Percentage of 2013 FDCP A Complaints

2013 Category Rank

Total 2012 Complaints

Percentage of 2012 FDCP A Complaints

2012 Category Rank

Repeated Calls

23,582

39.0%

1

37,543

36.5%

2

Misrepresent Debt Character, Amount, or Status

23,068

38.1%

2

39,993

38.9%

1

Falsely Threatens Illegal or Unintended Act

20,627

34.1%

3

30,470

29.6%

3

No Written Notice

17,502

28.9%

4

26,139

25.4%

4

Falsely Threatens Arrest, Property Seizure

16,882

27.9%

5

24,062

23.4%

5

Fails to Identify as Debt Collector

11,941

19.7%

6

17,873

17.4%

6

Repeated Calls to Third Parties

10,026

16.6%

7

16,679

16.2%

7

Improperly Calls Debtor at Work

9,761

16.1%

8

14,482

14.1%

8

Uses Obscene, Profane, or Abusive Language

8,652

14.3%

9

13,329

13.0%

9

Reveals Debt to Third Party

8,571

14.2%

10

12,272

11.9%

10

Refuses to Verify Debt After Written Request

6,361

10.5%

11

9,814

9.5%

11

Collects Unauthorized Fees, Interest, or Expenses

5,605

9.3%

12

9,034

8.8%

12

Calls Before 8:00 a.m., after 9:00 p.m., or at Inconvenient Times

4,656

7.7%

13

8,166

7.9%

13

Calls Debtor After Getting “Cease Communication” Notice

2,906

4.8%

14

4,928

4.8%

14

Uses or Threatens Violence

2,502

4.1%

15

3,312

3.2%

15

Read more about debt collection regulations here.

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The only shortcoming of living beyond one’s means. Ultimately, though, costs associated with debt repayment (fees, interest, etc.) diminish consumers’ ability to spend

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